So if you're interested, go to
You can see the old pictures and hear the old music and have a laugh or two.
Here is the next movie I want our staff to watch together. It's a documentary about children's ministry called "Jesus Camp". Again, the church as seen from a secular point of view. It came out about six months ago or so...
If you've seen either of these movies, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought. Thanks!
The American Heritage Dictionary defines relevance as:
"1. Pertinence to the matter at hand."
If the matter at hand is culture, and our goal is to be merely pertinent, that doesn't seem very lofty.
Mark Driscoll, who I sometimes agree with, has made some really great points about where the church should try to be in the cultural stream. He says that "Culture is made upstream, and people consume it downstream". He describes Christians as "a downstream bunch" fishing all the garbage out of the river, when instead we should move upstream and play a larger role in creating what gets put in the river. (The Church Creating Culture, Desiring God 2006 National Conference Video Podcast)
I get that. What does it matter that we try to be relevant in a polluted river of culture? Millions of people are drinking from that river. We ought to be upstream creating the culture that people consume, rather than downstream complaining about it.
Bob Briner wrote a book six or seven years ago called "Roaring Lambs" that had a similar sort of call to action for Christians. He is an Emmy Award winner for his work in television and a leader in television sports marketing, and the book makes the same encouragement... that we ought to be joining in the culture instead of boycotting it. We are called to be salt and light, yet we have missed so many opportunities to exercise spiritual influence on our culture. Our churches and christian universities have almost no leadership in key cultural areas such as television, film, journalism, or music...
So again, is relevance really the point? Why settle for that? Let's be leaders in and creators of culture, rather than just pertinent participants in it.
We were one of several of bands who were trying to be the light of Christ in the secular music scene in Indy at the time. And one of the frustrating things for me was how out of place it seemed to talk about spiritual subjects on a stage in a bar. As soon as anyone would mention anything about God or Jesus or religion or christianity, it was like you could feel the whole mood of the room change. Suddenly the crowd was on to us, sniffing out our agenda, and turning up their noses. It didn't matter that we were playing 90s modern rock like Wheezer, Fuel, Goo Goo Dolls, Everclear, U2, and Creed. That was just our pretext to try to convert them, and they knew it.
So I have a new strategy. The Blues.
Blues music, at its root, is deeply spiritual music. It follows from the slave spirituals of the deep south through early gospel music, and every blues generation since has had fairly significant spiritual content in their music. From Stormy Monday to the Blues Brothers and beyond, lyrics referencing church and prayer and God are commonplace. Because so many of the standards in Blues music have spiritual lyrics, blues fans are used to hearing spiritual language. It does not sound out of place to them.
So I started a band called Reverend Ken & The Bluesmen. We've been practicing for a while now, and just recorded some live rehearsal stuff to post online. We have our first gig coming up in April, and we're working at getting more and more songs under our belts. Our goal is to be the light of Christ in the blues music scene here in Portland and to be able to speak about spiritual things without seeming out of place or like we have an agenda.
Picture this, you're in a bar, and on the stage is an overweight long haired 30 something guitar player with cheap sunglasses.... And a priest's collar! He calls himself Reverend Ken, and his band The Bluesmen all have schtick names like Deacon Dawson (on the drums!) and Brother Bynum (on the bass!). After a particularly rousing number, Reverend Ken mentions to the crowd that drinking alcohol is NOT sinful. The band encourages a cheer from the audience, but Reverend Ken then adds that it IS sinful to be drunk. The band begins to boo, as does the crowd, and finally Reverend Ken prays "Thank you Lord, for your grace and forgiveness!" The band then begins to play "Lord have mercy on me" loud and roadhouse style as the crowd cheers again.
This sort of "act" would be meant to be funny and entertaining, with each band member having a persona and a part to play during the show. But underneath it all, the truth has been shared. Drinking is not a sin, drunkeness is, yet God is full of grace and forgiveness toward us. Now maybe this particular exchange would be a flop, maybe it's not funny at all, and no one gets it but me. But we would quickly find this out as we work out the act live, and we'll learn what works and what doesn't and go from there. The point being that the schtick and persona of Reverend Ken & The Bluesmen, combined with blues music that is historically spiritual in many ways, makes for a natural context within which to share truth. And after the shows, conversations like "No, I really am a pastor. Yes, I play every Sunday at a church down the road. Of course I could officiate your wedding AND play the reception!" would be icing on the missional evangelism cake.
So check it out. www.reverendken.net. We just posted the new song clips as an online demo to help with booking and whatnot. They were recorded and mixed live by Jason Bradley during our latest rehearsal, and he did a pretty good job given the circumstances. Thanks Jason!
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
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